Conferences archive > 2008 > SPEAKERS & ABSTRACTS

Vaclav Smil

He was born in Pilsen, Bohemia, in 1943, fol owed an interdisciplinary program at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Carolinum University in Prague and obtained a Doctor of natural sciences degree. He obtained his PhD from the Col ege of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State University, US. Professor Smil is distinguished primarily as a thinker about energy problems and as a prolific and clear-sighted writer on global energy issues. He has 25 books to his credit and has published more than 300 papers. His research interests are interdisciplinary, encompassing the environment, energy, food, population, and economic and public policy. He is particularly interested in the quantification and model ing of global biogeochemical cycles and long-range appraisals of energy and environmental options. Since the early 1970s he has applied these approaches to energy, food, and environmental affairs of China.

He fel ow of the Royal Society of Canada, was the first non-American to receive the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology, and has been an invited speaker to over 180 conferences and workshops across the world. He has given invited lectures at many universities around the world, and briefings and testimonies to the White House, US House of Representatives, Office of Technology Assessment of the US Congress, US State Department, and Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. He has also acted as consultant to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Center for Futures Research, East-West Center, International Research and Development Center, Rockefel er Foundation, US Agency for International Development, US National Academy of Sciences, World Bank, and World Resources Institute. 

Food, Water, Energy: Old Problems, New Opportunities

Today’s specific circumstances thathave combined to create high food and energy prices and an increasing anxiety about the future availability of oil and water are unprecedented -– but human affairs are cyclical and none of these concerns is new. And all of them share an important common denominator: enormous inefficiencies of production and/or use of these essential resources. Not only have been these irrational production practices and uses ignored or tolerated for decades, new forms of highly inefficient resource use and new wasteful consuming habits are constantly introduced and encouraged in affluent economies even as basic systemic inefficiencies affect energy and water use in agricultures of low-income countries. An indefensible choice of using food crops for production of automotive ethanol and continued gross food overproduction are perfect examples in the first category, Africa’s continent-sized insufficiencies and imbalances in fertilizer applications and very low efficiencies of nitrogen use throughout Asia are unfortunate examples of the second class of common wasteful phenomena. At the same time, our research, management and efforts have been overwhelmingly aimed at further increases of supply and consumption. I will address all of these problems by focusing on key irrationalities of today’s food production and associated challenges in water and energy uses and suggestsome long-overdue remedies.

torna top